Did you know that it's not just your age when you get pregnant that matters, but also how old you were when you got your first period? How mature the eggs in your ovaries are?
What are statistics all over the world?
Pregnancy in women over 35 is a topic that is surrounded by a lot of fear and anxiety. The number of women who have a child after being 35 years old is rising, so it's important to get information from reliable sources about the risks.
In the Netherlands, there were 27 000 births in 2014 in women between 40 and 45 years old. In 2015 this number rose to 32 500 births. In 2000 the percentage was only 4%.
In America, there were 9.4 live births in 2014 in women between 20 and 34 years old, which is more than 50%. However, the number of pregnancies over 45 also rose from 0.6% in 1980 to 1.5% in 2010. The same goes for Australia with 6100 births in 2014 in women aged 40-44 years. This is 14%. In 2008 there were 7400 births which were almost 18%!
A woman of 30 has on average a 2% risk of having a child with abnormalities (chromosomal abnormalities). A woman at age 40 has already a 10% chance. At age 45 this probability goes up to 60%.
A woman who gets pregnant after the age of 35, does not suffer from a higher risk of birth defects. However, you can get hypertensive disorders and develop gestational diabetes. There is also an increased possibility that you will need a cesarean section or that your child will be born prematurely.
Pregnancy at 35+
Well, maybe this isn't something to be concerned about if you're only planning to have just one or two children, but if there's a chance that eventually, someday down the road, you would like to have more than two children, then maybe this is something to think about.
When you're pregnant at 35+, people will tell you that you look great for your age, but even if your new baby is just some weeks old or some months old, you'll feel completely different from all the other young mothers. When being pregnant was still a thing of joy and happiness, back when everything felt new and exciting (back before it became routine), you already started feeling like an old hag.
Your friends are enjoying their lives, having fun with their partners (or sometimes without them) - while this is hardly something they can boast about to others who aren't in the know about their wonderful secret lives outside of the office, most of them do enjoy life fully.
You won't fit in anymore
All of a sudden, when you're in your late 30s and early 40s and everyone around you is in their mid-20s (or even teens!), you'll feel like an old woman.
You will notice that the amount of energy that goes into simply getting older also affects pregnancy. It's one thing to get pregnant when everything still feels new and exciting - it's another thing completely to get pregnant when you're already used to doing lots of things with ease (like shopping for groceries, fixing up stuff at home, etc.).
When most young mothers are busy playing with their babies, taking them for walks outside in the pram, doing all kinds of fun stuff with them, or they start thinking having more kids or they just go back to work - you'll already be busy changing diapers, trying to make them stop crying (which they will do for hours and hours on end), feeding them, doing one load of washing after the other (because your baby clothes are never clean) or covering up all kinds of red marks on their bodies that come from teething, diaper rash or the horrible colic these poor little creatures seem to suffer from.
You won't understand why everyone is telling you how blessed you are to have children. If only they knew what terrible burdens your babies are… If there's hope in any situation like this, it's knowing that at least it's not forever! These years pass quickly enough.
What are the risks?
Women who give birth at around the age of thirty-five years old are more likely than younger women to have babies with chromosomal abnormalities (meaning physical deform). Each year after the age of thirty-five, the chance of having a baby with chromosomal problems increases.
In addition to chromosomal abnormalities, older women who give birth are more likely than younger women to have babies with physical deformities and problems linked to low birth weight.
You also should be aware that giving birth after age thirty-five is linked with a higher risk of developing a lifelong disease called gestational diabetes, which causes high blood sugar during pregnancy. Other conditions associated with pregnancy at an older age include preeclampsia (high blood pressure), eclampsia (toxemia), placenta previa, placental abruption, placenta accreta condition twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome, and preterm labor.
Yet another concern for older mothers is the possibility of chromosomal abnormalities. Although any woman can have a baby with a chromosomal abnormality, women between thirty-five and forty-four years old are two to three times more likely than younger mothers to have babies with these kinds of problems.
The greatest risk comes from women aged forty-two and above who gave birth after age thirty-nine were ten times as likely as those who gave birth after age twenty-seven to have a baby with Down syndrome (trisomy 21) or other chromosomal diseases such as trisomy 13, 18, or XYY Syndrome. Women over fifty were almost five times as likely as those under thirty to give birth to a baby with Down syndrome. The risk of stillbirth also increases as the mother's age rises, but this is significant only after age forty.
After giving birth at an older age your uterus will never be quite the same again. You may find yourself suffering from problems like uterine prolapse or cystocele where you feel pain during intercourse and have to resort to surgery in order to correct it.
Finally, it's worth mentioning that giving birth at 35+ years old seems to cause heart disease later on in life for women who are genetically predisposed towards developing it (i.e., they don't necessarily have to have any other risk factors). The problem? Researchers simply don't why - although there are theories suggesting that uterine contractions during labor could damage the cells lining the blood vessels.
What are the benefits?
Okay, so maybe they won't be the most beautiful people in your family. But if you have children at more advanced age there are some clear benefits. First of all, older mothers are less likely to give birth to premature babies. Babies born between thirty-seven and forty-one weeks typically go home one or two days after being born.
For many doctors, that's enough - their opinion is that they're not necessary any "longer" in the hospital, primarily because the chances of them catching up on their growth with breastfeeding before going home is slim. That said, make sure you keep up with all scheduled doctor's appointments to ensure both you and your baby are healthy in time for when you leave the hospital!
Secondly, older mothers tend to have a higher birth weight. This is linked with an increased risk of high cholesterol and blood pressure as well as obesity, diabetes, and heart disease later in life.
Finally, it's been broadly known for some time now that women who give birth after thirty-five years old are more likely to go on and have a second child at a relatively young age compared to those who wait until they're forty before giving birth again - research has found that a staggering sixty percent of a thirty-something mother having a second child within ten years of the first child is born!
What are the chances to conceive after 35?
Giving birth at an older age does not seem to affect fertility after 35 years of age. You may want to talk with your doctor about the option of freezing some embryos before you turn forty in case they feel that you are too old for IVF after 40.
You should consult with your doctor if you have any concerns regarding having a baby when you're past thirty-five - there's no reason why it can't happen, but they'll probably discuss all the risks and benefits associated with having a child at such an "advanced" stage.
In addition, make sure that whoever is providing prenatal care for you knows how vital this phase is for both your health and your unborn baby's safety. Don't be afraid to get second opinions if you feel uncomfortable with the information provided to you by your current caregiver.
Remember, you are not alone! There are many women out there who have had children at thirty-five years old. Many of them will tell you that it was the best decision they ever made - but make sure to make an informed decision about giving birth at this stage in your life before making any concrete plans.
Is it your first child?
It is quite important, whether you are preparing for your first or second (maybe more!) pregnancy at this age, because childbirth at such an "advanced" age may seem like a pretty scary thing, especially when you add all age-related health conditions and problems to the equation.
As your hormonal imbalance is probably worse than it would be in younger women, you're more likely to experience hot flushes, which can be quite uncomfortable and distressing. Fortunately, there are several medications that might help. Keep in mind that stress and anxiety can significantly decrease your vaginal lubrication so practice relaxation techniques if needed!
How can you increase fertility after 35?
Here's the deal: as you get older, your fertility decreases and there is a higher risk of miscarriage, so getting pregnant after 35 can be harder than trying before 30. Don't despair if it takes longer - just keep making love and don't give up hope!
What kind of lifestyle changes can help? First and foremost: Be healthy! Your body was built to last for one hundred years, but only if you take good care of it. If you do not already have a healthy diet or an active lifestyle, think about how to start - especially now that your health may not recover as quickly as it might have in your twenties.
For example, try yoga or dance classes - find what for you! Or maybe you're already into cycling, jogging, or swimming? Try to keep it up - it will help you stay fit, healthy, and happy during your pregnancy. Second of all: make sure that you are emotionally stable. A lot of women become depressed after their pregnancies because they've gained weight, have stretch marks on their bodies, feel exhausted, etc., but don't let yourself get too stressed about this!
You may also want to consider taking some time out for yourself by going on trips or just spending some time alone with your friends or family members who are still around. It is not always easy for older mums to find close friends with children living nearby so if yours has recently moved away, try to change the situation before getting pregnant again.
And don't forget that even though you may feel exhausted after a long day of work, taking care of a child is a rewarding experience! You can read some books to help you prepare yourself for when your baby comes or try talking with other women who already have children - they know what it's like and can also give you some tips.
There are many studies showing how pregnancy at 35+ affects the likelihood of giving birth to babies with disabilities such as Down Syndrome. So, in case this might concern you: don't worry too much about all the risks and start thinking more about having that family that is so important to several couples around the world!
Check out all the possibilities and feel comfortable with your decision.
Whether you're having a child now or another ten years down the line, there's no need to rush into it - especially because it might be quite hard for you to get pregnant. Just make sure that if you do decide to become a mum after 35: take good care of yourself and your baby!
And always remember: information is power so don't be afraid to ask questions and do research about pregnancy after 35!